Calgary Stampeder long-snapper Randy Chevrier didn’t know how much he wanted to play football until the night the game was almost taken away from him by the point of a knife.
It was the summer of 2000. Chevrier was getting ready for his fifth year at McGill University in Montreal and another season of playing for the Redmen. He was working as a bouncer at a bar to earn some extra money.
“There were some guys causing trouble,” Chevrier said after practise this week as the Stampeders prepared to face the Toronto Argonauts in Sunday’s 100th Grey Cup game at Rogers Centre.
“Me and my work partner were trying to escort some guys out. Someone pulled a knife on me and stabbed me.”
The blade went into the side of Chevrier’s chest, just missing his lung. Doctors later told him it came close to his liver.
The time in hospital gave Chevrier time to think, sort out some priorities in his life.
“For me it was life changing in the sense it made me focus more on what I wanted to do,” he said.
“At that time it was one of the best things that happened to me in terms of I did appreciate living more. I did appreciate what I was doing. It made me focus more.”
Ironically Chevrier had spent the afternoon before the attack training. He was frustrated and questioned all the work he was putting into football.
“I thought ‘is it worth it?” he said. “That night I got stabbed.”
While talking Chevrier hiked up his practise jersey to show the remaining scar. Above it is a tattoo of a knife with a biblical verse.
The incident happened in late June. It took Chevrier five weeks to recover. The loss of blood, the stitches, the time away from the gym took its toll.
“I was a mere shadow of myself,” he said.
Against doctor’s orders Chevrier returned to training. By late fall he was ready for camp and was back on the team.
“I learned so much about myself,” he said. “I had a season that was unbelievable.”
The six-foot-two, 285-pound Montreal native became the first player in McGill history to be awarded the J. P. Metras trophy as the most outstanding lineman in Canadian university football. He was selected to play in the East-West Shrine game. In 2001 he was drafted in the seventh round by the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars.
After bouncing around the NFL Chevrier played two seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos. He signed as a free agent with Calgary in 2005. During his 11-year CFL career he’s won Grey Cups with Edmonton in 2003 and Calgary in 2008.
Showing his toughness, Chevrier played the whole 2006 season wearing a cast on a broken hand. He still snapped all of the team’s punts and field goals.
There’s a very good chance Chevrier could play the whole Grey Cup game without being noticed. About the only time a long snapper draws attention is when something goes wrong.
“That’s the only time (fans) know what I do,” Chevrier said with a grin.
Still, Chevrier is a big reason why placekicker Rene Paredes led the CFL with a 93-per-cent completion ratio and punter Rob Maver had the league’s best punting average.
Both Paredes and Rob Maver were West all-stars.
“I think Chevy is an under rated player on our football team,” said Mark Kilam, Calgary’s special team co-ordinator. “Long-snappers generally fly under the radar unless they make a mistake.
“Both our kicker and punter were all-stars. The guy nobody talks about is the snapper getting them, the ball. He puts the ball in the same place every time.”
Chevrier faced another test of patience and personal commitment this season. He came to the Calgary’s training camp fit and ready, but was told the team planned to use Tim St. Pierre as the long-snapper.
John Hufnagel, the Stampeders’ coach and general manager, said St. Pierre “was a little more athletic” than Chevrier and also doubled as a backup fullback.
“Which gave us more depth.”
The 36-year-old Chevrier believed it signalled the beginning of the end of his career. He swallowed his pride and sat out four games.
“I just tried to adjust my attitude to the situation,” he said.
“I always thought if I was replaced it would be because I got hurt or my performance would have suffered. That wasn’t the case. I was at the top of my game. That was tough to swallow.”
Kilam said Chevrier handled the situation like a professional.
“He focused on the things we told him he needed to work on,” Kilam said.
St. Pierre suffered a knee injury in the first quarter of Calgary’s 41-38 come-from-behind overtime victory against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on July 19. That put Chevrier back in the lineup.
“I am very grateful for every opportunity I get to stand on green grass and act like a kid,” he said.
Looking back at his career Chevrier sees how being stabbed shaped his future. Other events, like his mother dealing with breast cancer and raising his three children, put life more in perspective.
“At the time I was a lot younger and less wise,” he said. “At the time I was just thinking about football.
“You probably don’t ask the right questions when you’re going through something like that.”